S'pore firms expect hybrid work to boost innovation: Poll

Hybrid work, where employees work partly from home and in the office, will promote innovation, said a majority of the companies in Singapore polled in an HSBC survey on the future of work.

Over half, or 53 per cent of the more than 200 firms polled in Singapore, hold this view. They were part of a survey of 2,130 businesses worldwide, including in places like India, Germany and Australia.

Covid-19 has pushed firms to have their staff work from home. But as curbs are lifted, people start returning to offices, marking the beginnings towards hybrid work. The survey found that 36 per cent of businesses in Singapore place high priority on creating an environment that fosters and enables innovation. This compares with 33 per cent globally.

Some 44 per cent of respondents in Singapore prioritise work spaces that lead to greater collaboration (39 per cent globally). Thirty-seven per cent see office spaces as places where people from around the world can physically convene (30 per cent globally).

New global trends are also changing how Singapore businesses invest in their people, the survey showed. They place a greater emphasis than their global counterparts on upskilling, especially in environmental, social and corporate governance, as well as in digital skills. Some 41 per cent emphasise ESG skills development, compared with 33 per cent globally, and 43 per cent are focused on cyber-security skills (35 per cent globally).

HSBC Singapore's head of commercial banking Regina Lee said the survey shows that despite the pandemic, business leaders here "have an eye on the future of work in order to continue carving out a commercial edge when borders and commerce fully reopen". She added: "Leaders know that in order to retain their competitive edge, they must prioritise investment in tools, skills and environments to spur creativity and innovation."

The poll also found that more firms are prioritising their "social purpose" - how to reduce their carbon footprint, champion diversity and inclusivity, or manage their social impact. Some 39 per cent of those polled in Singapore have established such a social purpose in the last year and a further 20 per cent planned to do so, the survey conducted online in August found.

Ms Lee said firms are becoming more aware of the correlation between sustainability and profitability. They will have to implement corporate social responsibility policies that are meaningful and holistic, and "look to how CSR forms part of a wider plan to engage with operational, employee, financing and community needs", she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2021, with the headline 'S'pore firms expect hybrid work to boost innovation: Poll'. Subscribe